Pirelli’s Hembery has radical plan to change F1…for Americans

You know Formula One is having issues when a the motor sport director of a tire supplier is trying to solve the issues and come up with a plan to revitalize F1. Then again, Paul Hembery isn’t just a talking head, he’s a racer and a very sharp individual with plenty of ideas on how F1 could change.

Changes are set to take place amidst a war pitting Mercedes and Ferrari against Formula One Management (FOM) and the FIA. The rules could change radically for 2017 but Hembery reckons there are other things to be done and is preparing to offer FOM boss Bernie Ecclestone some ideas on how F1 could become a continental series in the future with a particular aim to improve its footprint in America.

“To lose Austin so soon after getting there – and it’s a good circuit and a well organised show which the fans enjoy – would be phenomenally negative for the sport.

“I also think it’s important to have a race in California. With this regional idea we could create a concentrated interest in the sport and help build a real fanbase. If we carry on making Formula One for European television we will end up with a Europe-only audience.”

As the Guardian Paul Weaver explains it, Hembery’s idea would be to have three seasons within a season. The idea is to have a continental season in Europe, the Americas and Australasia with two significant breaks between them.

On first blush, the complicated and expensive travel might be one area that this concept would significantly cut costs. It also would place F1 in primetime in each continental marketplace:

“I will be talking to Bernie shortly about this. I haven’t worked out the logistical problems. It’s up to the teams to do that. But this is all about getting more interest in Formula One, and particularly in the Americas.

“The market people all say the same thing, which is that the biggest problem in F1 is with the timings. They are all for Europe, which means in America they have to get up ridiculously early to watch the racing.”

As an American, I can attest to the early mornings at 6am to watch a race. The question becomes centered on the product and if the racing isn’t that good, then the snooze button is used on the alarm clocks across America. As Paul Weaver’s article explains, there are great circuits in America but many have fallen into disrepair and it’s a shame given that many would great venues for a continental series.

The fact is, something has to be done and while Mercedes and Ferrari may not be keen to make sweeping changes or have FOM and the FIA radically change the 2017 regulations, you now have Pirelli trying to help in any way they can. Hembery understands the seriousness of the situation:

“There is too much negativity about the sport. And if we do nothing we will have what we have now, which is unacceptable. The most recent changes we made, with technical regulations, haven’t worked. They worked for Mercedes, who have done an outstanding job. But it hasn’t worked for others.

“We’ve lost noise, which has always been a big element of Formula One. And we’ve created a complexity, because some engine manufactures have found it a really big challenge. And all the time the costs have gone up.

“What we have to do is create a more compelling product for the public, who want to see more overtaking and epic battles.”

The idea of each continental series producing its champion that would them come to an overall world champion at the end of the year is an intriguing thought and could be an interesting format. It would have to be more cost effective to have six Mercedes cars running in three series so perhaps this simple, cheap engine that FOM boss Ecclestone wants makes more sense for this concept.

Would you like a US-centric F1 series that is on primetime and focused on circuits from Canada to Argentina and then see that champion take on the European and Australasian champion for the finale?

Hat Tip: The Guardian’s Paul Weaver

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Paul KieferJr

I had a similar idea to Hembry’s, just running 40 races, but that’s the NASCAR side talking. Basically, just time the races to the season in progress: Europe in Summer, Australia & Asia (Oceania?) in Spring, Americas in Fall. (If you wanted to add Africa, you can run them in Winter).
Now, this question: If you run it as a continental format, then who gets to choose where the final title race is being held?
Continental sounds appealing if you run this as a new “Formula 2” format.

Tom Firth

Who in the USA is going to host an F1 race, realistically?

Negative Camber

Depends on FIA safety regulations. Elkhart is one of my fav’s but it won’t spend COTA money to make a opulent paddock area for F1’s current standards. Maybe that’s a more grassroots approach but that’s what Americans like int heir racing anyway. More accessibility.

Tom Firth

Yeah. No arguments with that. The venues exist in America, as in very good circuits exist as do in lots of european countries but very few are in a position to host F1, or hold a desire to host F1. It’s not so much a grass roots approach as a sustainability approach, the same as here, with accessibility being king (outside of Silverstone in the UK) Got to remember also that Watkins Glen is now owned by ISC, so that’s out, Road Atlanta is owned by the France family through some corporate entity, Sebring the France family have the lease… Read more »

Paul KieferJr

True. I wouldn’t suggest Detroit since they have enough problems climbing out of bankruptcy. Seattle might be a good spot, though, and there’s also Denver, Houston, Miami, Washington, DC, Boston, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Denver, Utah, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Austin (assuming that they pull out of this financial mess), El Paso, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco/Oakland, Charlotte, Raleigh, and so on. Truth be told, the only way that anyone would build something along the lines of CotA (or even better) is if you get a billionaire-type of investment. I don’t see Bill Gates shelling… Read more »

Tom Firth

Why expect less when you can get what you want in other countries?

Paul KieferJr

A stereotypically USA politically conservative person would give you this answer: “Why can’t you do anything without any government involvement?” (At least, that’s the shrill refrain I keep hearing).


Oh man, I would love a Pacific Northwest race, but there aren’t many tracks here. PIR would require so many renovations that it seems easier to just build a new location. Besides, I’m sure the population would be against funding the race. I’m not knowledgeable of Seattle’s economic climate and city layout, but with similar populations to Portland, I’d suspect a similar response. Personally, while I love street circuits, proper road courses are needed when adding tracks.

Tom Firth

Love PIR but you are right, for any sort of international racing. Would require a total rebuild from scratch. In the meantime though. It may be of interest to you that Indycar have officially uploaded the classic 1997 CART race from Portland to YouTube.

The Sarcastic SOB

Call Larry. Tell him we’ll paint “Oracle” on everything and everyone.

Paul KieferJr

Did you mean in terms of location or in terms of people, corporate, etc.?


This has honestly been the best idea I have heard yet for F1. It seriously makes too much damn sense.

charlie white

If this was a serious proposition, it would be in their best interest to look at venues that once hosted CART races. Hold a second Canadian GP at Mosport, Edmonton or Vancouver. Go to Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland or convince Tony George to run Indy again(or not). If this idea gains traction(pardon the pun), I wouldn’t be surprised to see the resurrection of the New Jersey street race or the long forgotten proposed Las Vegas race on The Strip.

Andreas Möller

I don’t quite get this proposal – it sounds like a mashup of two different ideas. When I read the first part, it sounded like a suggestion to not have two halves to the season with a distinct summer break, but rather three parts with two breaks in between. So, the australasia races are held as a more coherent package, with starting times as per their prime time, then a break before the next part (which could be Europe or the Americas) etc. The season as a whole would still be running from march-november, but each third would be focused… Read more »


So three segments, three (possibly different) winners, and a champion is determined based on what metric? Maybe it will be like NASCAR and the three champions are the only eligible series winners going into the last (make it 19th, or 22nd) race. To save costs I think races would have to be only a week apart as to prevent teams from returning home outside those series breaks. Testing will be held three times per year and all in season testing banned apart from limited time and money spent during those breaks (that could further differentiate the segments and possibly lend… Read more »